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Trails in Shenandoah National Park

Backcountry Regulations for Shenandoah National Park

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    September 27, 2017 4:24 pm

    Hi There,
    My girlfriend and I, along with our 2 dogs are trying to plan a 3 night backpacking trip in the last week of October. We are not too familiar with the area. We’ll be driving out from New York so we are looking for a loop (easy to park the car at one point and finish at the same point). Or, if you think hitchhiking is easy to get back the the starting point a one way trail would be awesome. 6-10 miles per day would be ideal. Any inside tips and help would be appreciated!
    THANKS!

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    • September 28, 2017 3:54 pm

      Hi Andy – what kind of features do you want? How important is solitude?

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    • Andy permalink
      October 1, 2017 7:38 pm

      Thank you for your quick response. We are definitely looking for solitude. We would like to pass through some nice look outs and definitely some falls, particularly to replenish our water supply as we will be needing to have water for not just myself and my girlfriend but also our two dogs. We may try to avoid river crossings or wading through deep water.

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    • October 2, 2017 10:00 am

      Great! That helps narrow things down. You’re not going to find any true 3 night loops in Shenandoah, as the park is very long and narrow. It’s like a corridor, so most of the longer hikes are linear. It is easy (and legal) to hitchhike for hiking transportation in the park. But, there are also shuttle services in Luray (Open Arms hostel). You might want to consider a section hike along the Appalachian Trail through the central district of Shenandoah. You could start at Thornton Gap and hike to Swift Run Gap. It’s a little over 30 miles to do the whole section. There are good campsites spaced out along the Appalachian Trail. There are a couple nice waterfalls (which are unfortunately very low to completely dry due to the lack of recent rain) that would require short detours from the Appalachian Trail. You would have many nice views along the way. You could also make figure 8 loops using the AT as a connector – some nice areas are Austin/Furnace/Trayfoot/Payne (at the southern end of the park) and Jeremys Run paired with Knob/Neighbor and the Appalachian Trail (northern section of the park). The downside to any hiking in the park during October is the lack of solitude. The park and all its trails are busy during the fall season. If solitude is your number one priority, I would suggest looking at trails in the adjacent George Washington National Forest.

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  2. gary permalink
    August 28, 2017 4:43 pm

    We are looking to hike 30-35 miles on the AT in Shenandoah in May. Can you help provide a good starting place where we can park cars or where we could catch a ride and hike back to our car? Thank you!

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    • August 28, 2017 8:02 pm

      I suggest hiking the central district of the park. It’s right around 35 miles and takes you past many of the park’s best viewpointss (Bearfence,Hawksbill, Stony Man, The Pinnacle, Marys Rock). There is good camping – both trailside and at AT shelters You’ll also pass Lewis Mountain, Big Meadows, and Skyland – three of the park’s main campgrounds/lodges. They’re great places to get a shower and a good meal along your hike. There is ample parking at both ends of the section. I think Open Arms hostel in Luray can provide shuttle services. Also, hitchhiking is allowed in the park for hikers and is pretty easy to come by (if you don’t want to pay a shuttle).

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  3. Ankit permalink
    August 21, 2017 4:04 pm

    Hi.. thanks for providing such a comprehensive list of hikes. I am curious what will be the ideal hiking trail circuit for a 3 days 2 nights backcountry hiking/camping trip in shenandoah during first week of september. I am looking for hikes with some degree of solitude and some nice views. Thanks in advance

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    • August 22, 2017 12:48 pm

      Hi Ankit… can you tell me how far you like to hike per day and what features you would like to include on the hike (views, history, waterfalls), and I’ll give you some sample itineraries/routes.

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    • TCB00 permalink
      August 23, 2017 9:04 pm

      I’m looking for same. Maybe 15 miles per day. View would be nice.

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    • August 24, 2017 9:55 am

      I think you’re going to have a hard time finding loops that let you cover 15 miles a day. The park is so long and narrow, so there aren’t many significant loop hikes. You could do some figure-8 hikes that use the Appalachian Trail to connect loops. The option I think I’d recommend is to hike the Austin-Furnace circuit (13 miles if you take the spur to the Furnace viewpoint, 12 if you don’t) he Trayfoot-Paine circuit (9.5 miles) and the Doyles River-Jones run circuit (7-8 miles depending on if you walk the shorter fire road option), using the Appalachian Trial to connect the three circuits (it would add a few miles and there would be some backtracking/repeating to make the loops connect). There are reliable water sources, nice campsites, and many views. The Jeremys Run area (looping with Knob and Neighbor Mountain) is nice, too. But it’s shorter than you prefer and there aren’t many great views.

      Another thought is to hire a shuttle and do a long segment of the Appalachian Trail. If you go three days and hike 15 miles a day, you can finish almost half of the park’s length. If you chose this option, there are hiker hostels in Luray (Open Arms) and Waynesboro (Stanimals). They can provide shuttle services. We usually have them drop us off at our start point, and hike back to our car. You might see a few more people on this option, but honestly early September is a quiet time in the park. We’ve done some AT backpacking in Shenandoah in September and only camped near a small handful of people – even when we stay right by a backcountry shelter. If you choose dispersed sites, you should have quite a bit of solitude.

      The park also has a list of route suggestions on their website, but I find a lot of them to be kind of… odd (weird mileage splits). Here is that link: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/campbc_trip_plans.htm

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    • Ankit permalink
      August 29, 2017 5:54 pm

      Hello,
      We are looking to hike 6-7 miles per day. And we are thinking of a hike that includes some part of wilderness valley, good swimming holes and streams for water options. We were first considering Overall Run Falls and Heiskell Hollow circuit. But we are not sure if the swimming holes and streams will be dried up during the first week of september. Alternatively if there are not any hike circuits with good swimming holes and streams this season, we can also consider a hike that covers a peak and wilderness valley and has water options along the way. We are thinking Brown Mountain and Rockytop circuit for that. Kindly let me know your advice. Thanks in advance

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    • August 29, 2017 9:08 pm

      Ankit… Would you consider hikes outside the park? If so, consider Dolly Sods or Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek. They’ll allow you the mileage you want and give you some of the best stream scenery and swimming holes in our region. Water in the park is pretty low right now.

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  4. Tom permalink
    May 9, 2017 1:42 pm

    Thank you very much for creating this. I’m looking at spending 6 weeks from October 15th 2017 hiking at a slow and steady pace along this route, from start till I run out of time. Can you please tell me what the temperatures will be? I have high quality camping gear to 0 degrees comfortably. Able to go to -2.
    Also can you please tell me will there be stores along the routes for food/water/showers? And how far apart are they.
    Thank you very much

    Tom

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    • May 12, 2017 9:59 pm

      Hi Tom! You might want to check with Shenandoah National Park about permits. I’m pretty sure the park limits people to 14 consecutive nights in the backcountry. I’m not sure if you’re planning on spending all of your six weeks on the trail, but you might want to look at the permit regulations before planning. Most of the amenities (campgrounds, restaurants, stores, water, showers) will be open when you start on October 15, but most of them start closing by the end of October. The exact dates for closings change from year to year, so you should look for exact dates on the park’s website. All of the amenities are along Skyline Drive. Some are as close as 6 trail miles apart, but sometimes you have to walk 20+ miles to get to services. As far as temperatures, I’ve hiked in mid-October in shorts and a tee-shirt, but I’ve also hiked in mid-October in a down jacket and base-layers. It’s a shoulder season – you never know what you’ll get.

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  5. LEM permalink
    September 6, 2016 5:11 pm

    Thanks for putting this up. Are these all the trails available in Shenandoah, or there are others that are not listed here?

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    • September 7, 2016 8:02 am

      There are many more trails in Shenandoah! These are just the most popular and worthwhile (in our opinion). All told. the park has just over 500 miles of hiking trails and fire roads.

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  6. ycmrun permalink
    June 29, 2016 11:13 am

    This is a great site.Thanks for putting this up. Wondering if you are hiking this July 4th weekend. I’m camping for 4 days at Big Meadow. Would love some company !!

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    • June 29, 2016 11:30 am

      Thanks for the visit and the nice feedback! We’re planning oh hiking outside the park this weekend – closer to the WV border. I hope you have a great trip!

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  7. Hope permalink
    May 26, 2016 7:48 pm

    This is a great site! Makes it very easy to access a lot of trails conveniently. Thanks! I have Elkwood to Jenkins and Bear Church rock on my list.

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  8. Emily permalink
    October 7, 2015 9:09 am

    Thank you so much for the detailed descriptions and directions for each trail in Shenandoah! It really helped me decide what trails to do in my short visit to Shenandoah.

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